Threat Actors Still Love a Romance Scam

Love is still very much in the air as a cyber-attack theme, according to email security company Tessian

survey carried out by the company found that nearly a third of people (32%) surveyed in the United Kingdom and the United States had been targeted with a romance scam in the past 12 months. 

Tessian said the figure represented “a significant increase” over the 18% of people in the UK and US who reported being subjected to an attack of this kind in 2020. 

“Isolating the US, 43% said they had received a romance fraud scam – up from 29% in 2021 – and in the UK, 14% said they had been targeted by romance scammers – up from 8% in 2021,” said researchers.  

In 2021, cyber-criminals used various communication methods to deliver fraudulent virtual arrows from Cupid’s bow, including social media, email and SMS. 

“When we asked which platforms they had received ‘romance’ messages on, personal email ranked top with 51% of respondents saying they had received fraudulent phishing emails from ‘love interests’ via this channel,” wrote researchers. 

Half of the respondents said they had received messages via Facebook, while 45% had been targeted over text messages. Instagram was also a popular channel, with 43% of respondents saying that they had been targeted via the app.

“Of course, this may be the tip of the iceberg, as many victims are too embarrassed to come forward,” hypothesized researchers. 

Researchers warned that cyber-criminals perpetrating romance scams were impersonating celebrities to lure their intended victims. 

“Worryingly, a number of stories of cyber-criminals impersonating celebrities have been reported to the media in the last 12 months,” wrote researchers.

“One woman was duped by a scammer pretending to be Nicolas Cage, conning her out of nearly $14,000.”

Tessian advised those seeking love online to question any requests for personal or financial information and use video calls to verify a stranger’s identity. 

“Be suspicious of requests from someone you’ve met on the internet,” warned researchers. “Scammers will often ask for money via wire transfers or reload cards because they’re difficult to reverse.”

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